By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – When Melvin Smith considers Tyler Bray and Tennessee’s offense, he thinks of little old ladies.
Farm animals, too.
Smith, No. 19 Mississippi State’s cornerbacks coach, recalled a story he heard from former colleague Gary Darnell when both were at Texas Aamp&M. When Darnell was Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, a “little old lady” approached him one day about the defense.
“I don’t know anything about defense,” she said, “but it doesn’t look like your men stand in the right place.”
Said Smith, “From that point on he always wanted his defense to stand in the right place. To me, it’s all about position, and I grew up on a farm. We only had X amount of acres, and when our cows and hogs got out and got on somebody else’s land, they were out of position because we had a fence.
“And you play defense by building a fence.”
So, there you have it. MSU’s goal on Saturday is to fence in the Volunteers like so many cows. Problem is, that’ll be some Grade A beef moving across the Scott Field turf.
Bray, a junior quarterback, is passing for 316.4 yards per game and has an array of weapons at receiver, tight end and running back. He’s the driving force behind a Tennessee offense that averages nearly 40 points a game.
But Bray can be fenced in. Florida and Georgia have done it, and in those two SEC games Bray completed just 51.7 percent of his throws for 538 yards and four touchdowns. and five of his six interceptions.
In your face
MSU linebacker Cam Lawrence said the key for Florida was getting defenders in Bray’s face. He was sacked once and threw two interceptions, and the Vols didn’t score over the last 11/2 quarters of a 37-20 loss.
State did a better job of pressuring the QB in last week’s win at Kentucky, and that’s a point of emphasis this week.
“It’s real important because he’s an NFL-type quarterback, he’s a real good guy,” defensive tackle Josh Boyd said. “So I feel like if we can pressure him, we can throw him off his game some.”
Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said Bray has had problems when he tries to do too much.
“We’ve had some issues late in plays of trying to make too many plays, and we’re just trying to get him to calm down and realize sometimes there’s not a play to be made,” Chaney said. “What Tyler believes, he believes in his own skill so much that he’ll try to force some things once in a while. We’re just trying to get that out of him.”
Another big key for MSU will be mixing up the looks it gives Bray.
“Show him a lot of different looks, let him see a lot of different pitches,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “Let him see pressure, let him see drop 10 and one guy rushing.
“Just be multiple, because with a guy like him, he’s seen just about everything.”